Google Core Web Vitals – Important tool for website owners

With the Core Web Vitals, Google provides a valuable tool to website owners. With the help of these clearly defined metrics, website operators can measure, compare and optimize the usability of their pages at any time. The current values for the metrics are available in various tools. There are several options for optimizing a website towards the Core Web Vitals. We recommend you tailor the details to your respective website(s).

Core Web Vitals – metrics for evaluating usability

Core Web Vitals are technical metrics that evaluate the usability of websites. Their calculation is based on several firmly defined criteria whose basic logic is easy to understand. This way of calculating the Core Web Vitals gives website operators and developers an objective view of their website and makes it easy to compare different versions.

Starting June 2021, Google will initially evaluate three key figures. Together with other analyses, such as optimization for mobile devices or security, the corresponding results will flow into the SEO-relevant ranking factor “Page Experience”. Google might add additional elements and key figures at a later date.

The importance of the three key figures

The three Core Web Vitals introduced are called Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). While the first two factors analyze the speed of a page, the third factor focuses on its presentation.

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

The LCP value measures the loading speed of a page. The LCP indicates how long it takes after a page load until the largest content block of the page is displayed to the user. This largest content block is often an image or a video, but sometimes also a large text block. As a rule, this is the largest and the most relevant content on the page from the user’s point of view. Therefore, the user’s patience should not be taxed too much when displaying it. According to Google, a good LCP value is a maximum of 2.5 seconds.

First Input Delay (FID)

FID evaluates the speed of interaction between the user and the page. For this, the value measures how long it takes for the browser to react to a user’s first interactive input. This user input can be clicking a button, using a form, or calling up a linked page. For all these actions, users should not be confronted with long waiting times because the tolerated duration is usually very short in this area. Therefore, Google also only rates FID values of up to 100 milliseconds as good.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

The CLS value measures layout shifts during the display of a page. Such shifts are particularly annoying for users. They not only disrupt the reading flow by moving content out of the field of view. The shifts can also lead to unwanted interactions – from bringing up an unwanted link to accidentally clicking a button. From the amount of shifting of page elements on the screen, Google calculates the CLS value. According to Google, your website’s CLS value is summed up for the duration of the page display. Anything from zero to 0.1 is in the excellent range.

Measuring Core Web Vitals

Website owners and developers can access the current Core Web Vitals for their website in various tools. They can choose between Field Tools and Lab Tools. For a meaningful assessment, we recommend that website owners and developers use both variants in combination.

Field tools, such as the Chrome User Experience Report or the Google Search Console, measure the metrics directly via the user’s browser. You can find further information on the Google Search Console here. The result is a good overview of the user experience under actual conditions. However, the prerequisite is that sufficient usage data is available for the web pages.

To complement this, we recommend using Lab Tools such as Chrome DevTools. They are an essential tool for developers to analyze and optimize the usability of pages even before they roll out pages. However, developers cannot measure the FID value with Lab Tools.

Importance of Core Web Vitals in everyday life

Low values for Core Web Vitals give website operators and developers a direct indication of the need for optimization. Although different users may react differently to long loading times, slow interaction, or layout shifts, poor values are likely to scare off many impatient visitors. Therefore, high values for the Core Web Vitals should be in the interest of every website operator.

Only time will tell what role Core Web Vitals will play in the future ranking of pages. At the very least, these metrics are a central component in the SEO ranking factor “Page Experience” for Google’s mobile index. However, the most significant importance for a good organic ranking will continue to be the content of a page. But if multiple pages perform similarly on content, usability could ultimately be the deciding factor for a better ranking.

Optimizing results

If you know the importance of all three metrics in terms of content, you can already derive initial starting points for optimizing them. The possibilities are manifold and depend on the respective pages and their content. However, there are some typical adjusting screws.

For a better LCP value, the loading time of the pages and the main content must be reduced. The measures to achieve a higher LCP score start with the use of modern compression methods for images and range from server- and client-side caching to the use of faster server hardware. A moderate LCP value also serves as an excellent opportunity to clean up. For example, you should remove scripts that you no longer use, and you should compress text-based files.

With a low FID value, the browser in use responds too slowly to user input. It is often busy executing extensive JavaScript programs. If long scripts are split into smaller parts instead, the browser can respond to the user in between. Moving extensive calculations to the server can also positively affect user interaction and thus the FID value.

For a good CLS value, we recommend you determine the page’s layout as far as possible before loading. The layout can be predetermined, for example, by fixed height and width specifications for images and videos or a space reserved in advance for advertising banners. In addition, we suggest you not insert new content at the top of the page but below the existing content. Then a more significant part of the layout remains stable, and the CLS value usually turns out better.

Of course, we also offer help in case you need help in optimizing these measures.

Another critical step towards more user-friendliness

With the Core Web Vitals, Google emphasizes the importance of high-performance and easy-to-use websites. The corresponding key figures are not only included in the ranking factor. Above all, they are essential and, at the same time, easy-to-understand tools for website operators and developers. They should always keep an eye on the values as an indicator of the user-friendliness of their websites.

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